310-322 Lee High Road, a Portrait of a Shopping Parade (Part 1)

A while ago Running Past looked at the shopping parade, Market Terrace, in this post we turn our attention to the next group of shops up – those between Bankwell Road and the eastern end of Old Road.  Like Market Terrace they are some of my local shops.

The shops were developed in two phases, those at the Old Road end were probably built in the late 1870s with those at the Bankwell Road end are more recent, dating from around 1907.  The reason for this goes back to the 1820s, when Lee Place was demolished and its estate was sold in lots, the area bounded by Lee High Road and Old Road was split into three (as shown on the 1897  published Ordnance Survey map below).

  • The eastern end, nearer Lee Green;
  • A middle section which Bankwell Road now runs down the centre of; and
  • The western end which is now edged by the 1930s housing along Old Road and Market Terrace.

The middle section may have been developed by James Watt – he certainly built the cinema that used to be sited on the corner of Bankwell Road, but nothing has yet been found to confirm who built the houses and shops.  What are now 310 to 316 Lee High Road would have been part of the Bankwell Road plot – the buildings are noticeably different to those higher up the road.  To avoid confusion, the post will refer to the current numbering, the shops at the eastern end have gone through three variants – initially they were called 1-8 Ainsley Terrace, then 176 to 190 and, from around 1907, 318 to 332.

Like their later counterparts, at Market Terrace, this parade is a microcosm of changing shopping patterns – the traditional, single product type of shop such as the draper, the butcher, the pawnbroker and fruiter remaining beyond World War Two, eventually making way for more modern and specialist uses.  Some shopkeepers, as we’ll see, stayed for decades but others clearly found it a struggle – some shops changed hands frequently, and there were usually empty fronts when Kelly’s were compiling their Directory – a trend that has continued into the 21st century.

As the oldest shops are at the eastern end, this is where we’ll start, following the numbering down.  This is appropriate because this post had its roots in a ghost sign of an Electrical Wholesaler, Stonor, which briefly appeared during the refurbishment of the exterior of the current relatively long term occupants of 332, a shop run by the charity Emmaus, in April 2018.

As for all the shops at this end of the terrace, the earliest record found of 332 was the 1881 census.  The shops may have been open a few years at that point – the Lee Working Men’s Institution, which was part of the same plot (and is marked on the map) had opened its doors behind in 1877. The shop was a drapers in its early years, run by Edwin Deighton in 1881, his wife Mary, two shop assistants and a servant lived ‘over the shop.’  There were five children, a mother-in-law, an apprentice and an extra servant added to the 1881 occupants by 1891.  The Yorshireman Charles Richardson and his wife Catherine from Lewes were running the shop by 1899 – although this seems to have been largely as an extension to 322 which they ran from at least 1881, their daughter, Laura, was living over the shop when the census enumerators called in 1901.

The shop had passed on to Leonard Charles by 1905, still as a draper; but was to soon become Corn Merchants, Kinnear and Co.  After a period empty at the end of the Great War, the shop was taken over by William Findlay, initially it seems to be as a wholesale tobacconist but by the outbreak of the Second World War it was a retail tobacconist and confectioner.  In the 1939 Register there appeared to be William, his wife Daisy, three married daughters and a son, also William all working at the shop.  The shop continued with the same name until at least 1960 when Stonor took over, they were an electrical wholesaler which traded until around 1970 before going bankrupt.  The shop was bought by R & B Star another electrical wholesaler, the initials coming from the owners Bill Robertson and Ray Trull, who were certainly there until the early 1980s when they moved onto bigger premises.  After being empty for a while the shop seems to have taken over by the Greenwich based Homeless Charity, Emmaus.

The occupant of 330 (middle of picture above) in 1881 was Joseph Holbrooke, while the shop was listed as a stationer; Joseph’s ‘trade’ in the census was listed as a watchmaker.  By 1891 the stationers was being run by Alice Simpson, although Kelly’s listed her as running a Fancy Goods Repository. After a short period empty, by 1901 the shop was being run as a fruitier by Ellen and John Hutchens from Berkshire and Cornwall respectively. They were still there in 1911 although John had then trained as an accountant and their son Herbert was working in the shop.  After another period empty, the shop re-opened as a confectioner in 1919 which it remained until the outbreak of World War 2, although no one stayed running it for more than 5 years.

After the war 330 was ’home’ to Teebo Supplies who were model engineers, before becoming the shop front from Lewisham Auto Electrics, their workshops and garage was behind.  They sold car radios and the like from the mid-1960s, they were to move next door to 328 from the mid-1980s.  The shop appears to have been empty for several years, with net curtains in the window having previously have short-lived businesses as Computer Printer Supplies, then a supermarket, La Congolese and briefly a ‘tattoo studio’.  It currently seems to be being used as storage for Sey Appliances at 328.

328 Lee High Road (the right end of the photograph above) was a hairdresser for much of its life – the first was Walter Samuel Bloxham from Faversham, he was at Ainsley Terrace in 1881.   He was married to Anne and they lived around Sittingbourne until the early 1870s.  Two of his sons Herbert and Percy also trained as hairdressers – they were still there in 1891 but had moved out by 1901 – Percy had a hairdressing business in Foots Cray, Herbert moved back to Sittingbourne to run a similar shop front.  So when Walter died in 1907 after 30 years at the shop, the business moved out of the family to Frank Dunk, although Frank kept the ‘W S Bloxham’ name for a while.

Frank Dunk may have been working for Walter; he was certainly in the trade, in 1901 he was living in an overcrowded house in the recently built Abernethy Road (part of the Firs Estate), described as a ‘Hairdresser and Ornamental Hair Worker.’ He was born in Hastings in 1878 and by the next time the census enumerators called he had married Elizabeth in 1902 and had a son, Leslie born in 1905 and were living above, the shop.  They were still all there in 1939.

Frank remained at the shop until the late 1950s – a tenure of around 50 years, he died in 1960 in Lewisham in his early 80s.  After this the shop was empty for a while and then became briefly an estate agent, an insurance broker and then was used by Lewisham Auto Electrics.  Since around 2008 it has been ‘home’ to a second hand white goods shop – Sey Appliances.

There was an Employments Agency which supplied drivers from the mid-1960s and later a Fancy Dress shop, it isn’t clear whether 328a was a split front or these were businesses carried out from the first floor.

For much of its life 326 Lee High Road (left of picture below) was part of the Victoria Wine chain – it was there in 1881 and their tenure remained until the early 1960s – although there was a different manager there in each of the early censuses; in 1939 the tied accommodation above was occupied by the appropriately named Frank Porter. The chain was certainly in operation from the 1860s but was taken over in the 1920s by, what was to become, Allied Breweries. The shop front was to become a laundrette afterwards, initially, the wonderfully named McClary Easy Self-Service Laundry, but in its latter years, in the mid-1980s, the more prosaic Coin Laundry.  It had probably moved to the corner of Market Terrace in the late 1980s, I certainly don’t recall it being there in the 1990s. In recent years it was a café called Women of Destiny (whose canopy is still there), then a signage free second hand shop and more recently a series of knitting supplies and a vintage clothes and alterations shops.

For its early life 324 was a butcher’s shop – in 1881 it was run by James Hall who hailed from Portsmouth and his wife Annie; they had retired by 1890 and the business had been taken over by Charles Lintott.  Lintott didn’t last long there with the business run for most of that decade by Louis Dyer but Herbert Collingwood was there when the census enumerators called in 1901.

From 1911 until the mid-1920s it was owned by Thoroughgood and Co and by the late 1920s it had been bought out or sold to another chain of around 130 butcher’s shops across southern England and London, R C Hammett, who by that stage was owned by the Dewhurst Group.  They had moved just down the road to 274 by 1951.

324 became a greengrocer in the 1950s and 1960s, run by Thomas Stevens and then Frank Tuckey. From the early 1970s it was a family run DIY shop (pictured above in 2008) – iit was run by a mother and son and latterly the son on his own. There was the wonderfully overpowering smell of freshly cut wood when going into the shop which emanated from the cellar where it was stored and brought up through a trap door.  The shop was crammed with almost everything that would be needed for a DIY project and for ‘trades.’  It would be the first point of contact for most home improvement tasks – the man who ran it friendly, knowledgeable and helpful; it was an ‘old school’ shop where customers genuinely seemed to matter.

Despite the growth of DIY superstores in the area, the shop continued although from the early 2000s the range deteriorated a little but the harbinger of death proved to be Red Routes – the passing ‘trade’ trade was unable to stop during peak hours and the level of stock that could be carried reduced.  My forays there tended to be less successful than they had been and by 2011 the shop had gone. After a year or two empty, the business was taken over by Lewisham Pharmacy around 2014, while the trade is different, the customer ethos of the predecessors has continued.

We’ll leave the parade here until the next post, which will cover the shops at the Bankwell Road end of the terrace.

The ‘story’ of the 310-322 Lee High Road has been pieced together using Kelly’s Directories held by the Lewisham Archives – generally looking at every 5th year since the parade opened for business around 1877.  These Directories go up to the mid-1980s.  More recent jogging of my own memories has been via the ‘back catalogue’ of Google’s StreetView which has passed Market Terrace several times since 2008. If you think that I have got anything wrong or have memories of any of the shops please use the comments field below or in Facebook thread or Twitter post you reached here from. I’ll include some of them when I update the post.

Thanks and Credits

Thank you to the always helpful Lewisham Archives, particularly Julie Robinson, for access to the Kelly’s Directories.  More recent jogging of memories has been via the ‘back catalogue’ of Google’s StreetView which has passed Market Terrace several times since 2008.

Census and related data comes via Find my Past

The Ordnance Survey map is courtesy of the National Library of Scotland on a Creative Commons.

The photographs of 324 are screen grabs from Streetview in 2008 and 2018.

7 thoughts on “310-322 Lee High Road, a Portrait of a Shopping Parade (Part 1)

  1. sjcrofts

    “Fncy Rep” is “Fancy [goods] repository” without which no Victorian or early 20thC parade of shops seems to have been complete!

    I remember the marvellous DIY shop. They had everything.

    Reply
  2. Pingback: 310-322 Lee High Road, a Portrait of a Shopping Parade (Part 2) | Running Past

  3. Tony Yardley

    Excellent article as ever! One thing though, at no. 332 – in between R & B Star and Emmaus I seem to recall a yellow and red fronted place that sold car radios and other electrical goods, always remember the big ‘Bosch’ sign outside. I think it was still there well into the late 90s.

    Reply

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